Everyone on the fence about purchasing a 3DS owes it to themselves to try AR Games. While it may not convince you to immediately run out and buy one, it does an excellent job of demonstrating the gameplay possibilities offered up by the new hardware, and it simply needs to be experienced first-hand because words cannot do it justice. This title is really neat, and it was undoubtedly one of the top attractions of the show.
The representative on hand told me there would be six AR cards included with the system when it launches, but the only one on display at the event was Archery. After placing the card on the table, the game instructs you to move back approximately fourteen inches away from it. Moving either too far toward or away from the card would cause the game to lose the virtual image it creates, but this did not present as much of a problem as it may seem like it would; indeed, the game even required that you physically reposition the system on multiple occasions, and you had a fair degree of freedom in how far you could move.
The object of AR Archery is to shoot the targets that appear, clearing progressively more complex sets until you reach the boss. The first to materialize out of the card was a coin block, which humorously began to walk around if you took too long to react. Shooting it would graduate you to the next series of targets, and each successive level became more visually impressive than the last. The effects were so astonishing they often bordered on surreal: at one point the card on the table began to stretch and grow, and the animation was so convincing that it was easy to forget what I was witnessing was not actually happening.
After a few simple sets the boss appeared, a dragon-like monster that could withdraw into the table. The creature displayed a surprising amount of visual detail, writhing and lashing at the screen as one would expect such a ferocious monster to do, but it ultimately proved to be harmless as the gamer could not take any damage. Even still, I would find myself naturally moving away every time it lunged toward me, a testament to how convincing the entire experience can actually be. The dragon was not particularly difficult to beat, but the battle was fun: its body was divided up into segments, and each one had to be shot to destroy the creature. Successfully clearing the battle would end the demonstration.
While Nintendo has yet to reveal what other cards will be included with the title, AR Games is shaping up to be the Wii Sports of 3DS: a simple, “wow, that’s neat,” kind of game that perfectly demonstrates the system’s capabilities. That it comes pre-installed in the hardware only serves to validate this parallel, and anyone who purchases the handheld can enjoy the title right out of the box. It may not offer up the same level of gameplay depth as a full retail release, but the technology and creativity it displays is undeniably impressive. This is the kind of title that really needs to seen in person to believe.